Summary: What is Christian baptism and how does it go with God’s plan of salvation?
Baptism. The word conjures up many different thoughts and images when it is mentioned. To some it brings to mind Jesus and His baptism. Some think of the baptism of John the Baptist. Some think of the baptism of the Holy Spirit that is spoken of in the scriptures. In the Christian Church, Churches of Christ, when we think of baptism, we think of it as the meeting place, where we put on Christ and we receive the forgiveness of sins and we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
As we look at the subject of what it takes to become a Christian, what place if any does baptism have? Is baptism an outward sign of an inward grace as taught by many churches today or is baptism an essential step in the salvation process? Are those of us who believe that baptism is essential part of a fringe cult as Hank Hanigraph of the Bible Answer man program has said before?
Can we take little children and baptize them or are there some prerequisites that MUST come before one is baptized?
What is the purpose of baptism? Are there any promises linked to baptism? These are some things that we are going to look at today as we look at the step of baptism.
I am going to add something to the word baptism that will give away what I am going to teach about it today. I am going to call it Christian Baptism. After we look at this I think you will see why I call it Christian Baptism.
In this introduction I want to take a little time to give you some background information that will help you see why baptism can be such a misunderstood divisive subject.
In our churches we baptize by immersion because that is the way the early church did it for over 700 years. The word that we have transliterated “baptize” literally means to dip or plunge. It was not until 753 AD when Pope Stephen II said it was all right out of necessity did the church in general practice the sprinkling. It was not until 1311 at the council of Ravenna that sprinkling was an accepted practice by church. The church felt that the Pope and the councils had the right to change what they knew was not biblical, but instead traditional.
The followers of Martin Luther and John Calvin and others because of their misunderstanding of grace and works pushed the significance of baptism to the point to where it is today for most people, something that is not necessary. We have replaced God’s plan of salvation with saying a sinner’s prayer that is found NOWHERE in the Bible.
Another thing that happened that further muddied the waters per se was when the King James Bible was first translated. As I have read it, the translators KNEW that the word “baptizo” meant to “immerse”, but they decided not to translate the word because King James had been sprinkled and they were afraid to offend him so they transliterated the word into the word baptize.
Today, let’s see if we can clear up some issues with Christian baptism so that we can have a clear understanding of its place, prerequisites, purpose and the promises that come along with Christian baptism.